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 Medieval Skyscrapers

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Triceratops
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PostSubject: Medieval Skyscrapers   Sun 03 Feb 2013, 17:56

Think of skyscrapers and you automatically think of New York or Chicago,perhaps Dubai or Kuala Lumpar, at any rate of modern cities. However in the 12th century the Italian city of Bologna was already a city of skyscrapers. Believed to have been built by prominent Bolognese as places of defence, the estimated 80 to 100 towers which existed over the period must have given the city the most extraordinary appearance;



Most have long since vanished, but two adjacent towers still survive, the Asinelli [ the tallest of the pair] and the Garisenda [ note the the tilt, the Garisenda also has a mention in Dante's Divine Comedy]



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PostSubject: Re: Medieval Skyscrapers   Sun 03 Feb 2013, 18:28

Fascinating Trike!

Roman insulae reached 10 and more stories high, with shops on the ground floor, the wealthier citizens living on the lower floors and the poorer living up above. There were attempts several times to establish limits on the height of buildings and each effort was met with little success.

The 16C city of Shibam in Yemen consisted of over 500 tower houses, up to 11 stories high. Each floor being an apartment occupied by a single family. And each, amazingly, made out of mud brick.
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PostSubject: Re: Medieval Skyscrapers   Sun 03 Feb 2013, 21:26

I suppose the "skyscrapers" that dominated the City of London skyline before 1666 were the spires and steeples of the churches - over a hundred within the City walls. Eighty-nine churches were destroyed by the Great Fire, but only fifty-one were rebuilt. Still an impressive sight:



The pre-Fire skyline of the City of London would have had even more spires/steeples than are shown here!
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PostSubject: Re: Medieval Skyscrapers   Sun 03 Feb 2013, 21:36

Visscher's panoramic view of London from 1616 illustrates your point very well, Temp. I've linked to it below as a smaller version posted here just wouldn't do it justice and this site has a version large enough for the annotations to be legible:

Visscher's view north of the Thames 1616

(When the image opens click once on it to enlarge it)
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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: Medieval Skyscrapers   Sun 03 Feb 2013, 21:43

Ah - thank you, nordmann. That's an excellent panorama indeed!
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PostSubject: Re: Medieval Skyscrapers   Sun 03 Feb 2013, 21:49

The skyscrapers in Bologna were indicative of what seems to have been an architectural craze, especially in Tuscany at the time, of cities competing with each other to erect the tallest and most numerous examples of such structures. San Gimignano still boasts 16 of the original 72 and presents quite a skyline if one drives from Empoli and turns the last bend into the valley which lies at its feet.



And closer up:

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PostSubject: Re: Medieval Skyscrapers   Sun 03 Feb 2013, 22:26

And Pisa when it too could compete with the best of them:

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PostSubject: Re: Medieval Skyscrapers   Mon 04 Feb 2013, 12:25

San Gimignano looks really spectacular and of course, Pisa has the best known tower of all;



Shibam is a UNESCO World Heritage Site;



An admission, I first learnt of the Bologna towers while reading a John Grisham book [The Broker]
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PostSubject: Re: Medieval Skyscrapers   Mon 04 Feb 2013, 12:51

You can see from the old print above that the famous bell tower was already in place and leaning when all the tall rectangular defence towers were also in their heyday. It is difficult now to imagine a Pisa in which the leaning tower was only one of several structures in close proximity which were as tall or taller.

Venice has also a high-rise past which would astound today's casual observer of the medieval heart of the city, where all seems ancient and unchanged for the best part of a thousand years or more. In the 13th century the city embarked on a project akin to Bologna and other neighbours which ultimately proved disastrous - the foundations for such tall structures just weren't feasible and they began falling down. Eventually the doges ordered their destruction. However for a period of 50 years or so Venice must have appeared like a Manhattan in microcosm, all the tall towers being concentrated on two islands adjoining the lagoon.
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PostSubject: Re: Medieval Skyscrapers   Fri 12 Jul 2013, 14:47

@Temperance wrote:
I suppose the "skyscrapers" that dominated the City of London skyline before 1666 were the spires and steeples of the churches - over a hundred within the City walls.

Tracing the history of tall buildings reveals a fascinating journey whereby the home of 'skyscrapers' seems to gravitate from continent to continent. For millennia the pyramids of Egypt were the tallest buildings in the world. This was until the 14th Century when the title moved from Africa to Europe where various great churches began to take the title. There it stayed until the beginning of the 20th century when the centre of gravity shifted to North America. Since the turn of the 21st century, however, it has shifted again - this time to Asia where it looks like staying for the foreseeable future.

It's not an exact science, though, as there are always debates raging about exactly what constitutes a 'building' as opposed to a 'structure'. For example is Cheops' Great Pyramid at Giza a building or a structure - and what about the Eiffel Tower in Paris?
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